Yesterday we had the pleasure of having two excellent guest panelists from Pakistan offer their expertise in our UPR side event “Women’s Rights in Pakistan: Status, Challenges and Possible Solutions”.

Moderated by WILPF International’s own María Muñoz Maraver, the event shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of the review of Pakistan’s report by the UN UPR mechanism and provided recommendations on how to implement the recommendations issued by this mechanism.

Progress Made?

The first panelist Fauzia Viqar, from the women’s resource center Shirkat Gah, offered a context setting on the situation of women’s human rights in Pakistan.

While she did recognize that Pakistan has made some meaningful progress in women’s rights, even some of the apparent progress can be misleading.

For instance some laws protecting women from domestic violence as well as acid and burn crimes have been passed, but the law only applies in the capital city. These types of legislation are certainly insufficient, to say the least.

Other laws that are in place are not implemented or have such meager penalties that there is no deterrent to break them. For instance, child marriage has been outlawed, but continues to be practiced given that there is only a small fine and a one-month jail sentence (if convicted).  What is worse is that the marriage is not even annulled after a conviction of it being illegal.

Even quotas requiring female involvement in the government are problematic in the fact that women are usually handpicked by prominent males relatives already involved in the government, meaning that the wider female perspective may still not be voiced.

Also the continued use of parallel judicial systems in some regions and the provisions such as Qisas and Diyats (which allow for a compromise or pardoning of a killer by the heirs of the deceased) encourage in practice the spread of the perpetration of honour killings which are then pardoned by own the family.

Furthermore, she revealed that the government hinders women’s right to security by not recognizing that there is armed conflict in the country. The use of the Security Council Resolution 1325 is crucial in this situation for the security of women and to establish a sustainable peace.

Our other panelist, Ayesha Taslim, from our Pakistan WILPF branch, voiced further concerns. She discussed the extraordinary position of women in rural settings who face major issues with getting equal land rights, voting rights, and pay for labour.

Recommendations for Improvement

Ayesha Taslim went on to offer recommendations to help remedy the problems in Pakistan. In terms of addressing state laws and procedures she suggested that police should be trained in gender sensitivity, the sale of pure acid should be banned and the age of marriage should be made the same for boys and girls to be 18 (currently the age is 18 for boys, but 16 for girls). Pure acid is being used in Pakistan to burn women’s faces as penalties for “crimes” such as indecency even though this use has been outlawed.

Furthermore she suggested that the international community could help by limiting arms sales to the region, especially when they are known for falling in the hands of civilians and terrorists and terrorizing women both within the household and in the streets.

These suggestions are important in moving toward a safer and more equal life for women in Pakistan. Overall, this event gave a more nuanced picture of the status of women in Pakistan than what we heard in the UPR, and can help guide us in taking steps in the future.

You can find WILPF’s recommendations for the UPR Pakistan here .